by Yehudis Litvak.
Kol Neshama’s Los Angeles premier of its third movie for women and girls, Operation: Candlelight, took place at the Museum of Tolerance on December 15th and 16th. Kol Neshama, headed by Robin Garbose of Los Angeles, runs summer camps where observant Jewish girls study performing arts. Operation: Candlelight was filmed in Kol Neshama’s camp in the summer of 2013.
The movie was filmed on the campus of Mesivta of Greater Los Angeles in Calabasas, which was transformed into a fictional girls’ boarding school. It is an adventure story involving a hostage situation, and at the same time, it is a story of friendship, loyalty, and acceptance of every Jew, with all their quirks and personal challenges. Jewish values are woven into the story as the characters explore loss, faith, tznius and Shabbos.
The audience at the premier responded enthusiastically, praising both the quality of the movie and the moral values it conveys to the viewers. After the screening, Mrs. Garbose and some of the actresses came up on stage and took questions from the audience.
Mrs. Garbose described the process of making the movie, which took about a year altogether. The picturesque hills of Calabasas, the location of the summer camp, inspired the script, which Mrs. Garbose wrote over several months. The filming itself took eighteen days, although most of it actually took place during the night. The next stage was editing and it took about half a year. Then there was work on sound design, a music score, color correction of the images and visual effects. All the pieces had to be assembled to produce the final version shown at the premier.
The girls described the special bond they’d enjoyed as they worked on the movie together. At camp, they first got to know each other for three weeks before they began filming. Shooting at night also helped create a special atmosphere. The entire camp stayed up all night long for over two weeks. One of the girls, Chaya Mushka Uzan, would bake chocolate chip cookies at 3 a.m. to keep the excitement going. “Once you stay up all night with somebody, and get to know them at their worst, it brings you closer,” explained Raize Marquis.
The actresses came to the Kol Neshama camp from all over the world: France, Israel, England, different parts of the U.S. and Canada. They spanned different backgrounds: Bais Yaakov, Chabad, chassidish, Modern Orthodox. They were all united by their love for the performing arts. There were no cliques in camp due to this common interest. “The goal,” explained Mrs. Garbose, “was to create a safe environment where girls were not embarrassed to act silly and make fools of themselves in front of everyone else.”
When asked about the mission of Kol Neshama, Mrs. Garbose said that she would like to empower the girls to believe that each of them could light up the world if she has the strength and the courage to be herself.
In fact, Operation: Candlelight began to inspire people even before its final release. Two of the sound team members were secular Jews who expressed a desire to connect to their Jewish roots which they had understood better after working on the film. The film has the power to awaken Jewish pride.